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So while I am not quite an unschooler, I can certainly appreciate the idea of strewing as I learn more about it. From my understanding, strewing was coined by unschooling advocate Sandra Dodd, and is simply the act of placing items of interest in the paths of our children so they may discover and pursue it as they wish. The things we strew are not to be forced, and we should have no expectations from our children about when, how or even if they use or enjoy it.
The "things" we strew can be anything from an interesting book, to a puzzle, to a website, to new art supplies, to a game, to an experience. Anything really. Just leave it in their path, offer it, and allow them to explore it whenever they are ready. They may not find any interest in it, but at least I have tried.
Some of the ideas I have been strewing lately...
Books & Magazines
One of the most obvious, I suppose. I've found there are many ways to strew books.
- Let the kids see me reading and enjoying it
- Recommend "new" books at bedtime that are similar to favorite stories
- Placing a few books in highly visual areas
- Introduce new titles by beloved authors
- Sign up for mail-subscriptions like the free Imagination Library or magazines
- Play audiobooks in the background while the kids are playing (they often stop to listen)
Educational Toys and Supplies
Another easy, obvious one. I've set out things like Wrap-Ups and Pattern Blocks and Hot Dots. I like to set out things that can be investigated independently whenever possible.
Then sometimes I go off current interests. Recently Elliott chose to learn about energy sources in science, and was particularly interested in electricity. I remembered this Electrical Maze that I picked up at a sale (still brand new) for $1 awhile ago, and I set it out on the counter. I did have to help assemble it, but we had a great discussion and the boys loved trying to beat the maze so they didn't set the buzzer off! This also led to me asking if I should read aloud the book Benjamin Franklin and Elliott eagerly agreed. Even Emory followed along for most of it!
When I'm going through the closet and find a game we haven't played in awhile, I'll set it out to be noticed. Sometimes it goes back without any play, and other times it is requested right away. Recently I came across Math Dice Jr. that I bought a couple years ago. Somehow it got packed away. Elliott loves math, and he loves dice games, so I knew this one would be appreciated. I left it out on the table next to some video games. Ignore the scratches on my poor end table. It has had a lot of LEGO Love. Within a few minutes he had stopped playing video games and asked to play this. We've played it numerous times and there are a lot of variations to this game so it has a lot of mileage.
Sometimes I strew items unintentionally. When the Draw Write Now set first arrived, I left the box in the floor. Elliott came through, found a 'magna doodle' type drawing toy and started drawing the farm animals from the book. Another time I had a basket of art supplies sitting out from when I was planning my co-op lesson, and Emory asked if he could paint. Absolutely! The boys painted people, volcanoes, and a bowling scene, to name just a few things, and narrated everything to me when I asked about their work.
This is easy to do with Pandora. I will just play various channels in the background while the kids play. Since I'm not good at organizing composer studies or other formal music appreciation activities, this still allows us to enjoy exposure to a variety of genres.
Sometimes we find something interesting and point it out to the kids, like the bugs I mentioned my husband bringing home in when nature study just happens. Or a simple bird's nest leads to a lot of questions about how birds build their nests and the materials they use.
I add new apps all the time, especially when I find free educational apps. Sometimes I will tell the boys, and sometimes I hear "Oh, what's this?" and they explore it on their own. Elliott particularly likes the apps produced by Blake Learning, as they are associated with the online program Reading Eggs that he uses.
This is something we've been doing more of lately. We both tend to take the boys on errands with us, encouraging questions as we go. Sometimes we ask the kids if they want to attend special events or classes, and sometimes we plan special experiences for them. Most recently, we planned a trip based on their love of LEGO to the Legloland Florida amusement park. I shared about that in LEGO Field Trip Planning and how it has allowed Elliott especially to rabbit trail into other activities that could easily be categorized under language arts and geography.
So while we continuously alter our environment to meet the needs of the kids, I am learning more about the art of strewing and how to use it to challenge them and help them grow.
More about Strewing
Strewing Our Children's Paths
How Strewing Strengthens Unschooling
Unschooling Ideas: Strewing
The Art of Strewing (a series by an unschooling mom)
This post is linked up to Blogging through the Alphabet and Homeschool Link-Up.
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